British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Human and Clinical Nutrition

Diet and deprivation in pregnancy

Paul Haggartya1a2 c1, Doris M. Campbella2, Susan Duthiea1, Katherine Andrewsa1, Gwen Hoada1, Chandrika Piyathilakea3 and Geraldine McNeilla4

a1 Nutrition and Epigenetics Group, Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, Greenburn Road, Bucksburn, Aberdeen AB21 9SB, UK

a2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB9 2ZD, UK

a3 Division of Nutritional Biochemistry and Genomics, University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL 35294-3360, USA

a4 Population Health Section, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK


Deprivation is associated with poor pregnancy outcome but the role of nutrition as a mediating factor is not well understood. We carried out a prospective cohort study of 1461 singleton pregnancies in Aberdeen, UK during 2000–6. We measured nutrient intake and supplement use, B vitamin and homocysteine status, birth weight, gestational age, neonatal treatment and socio-economic deprivation status. Women in the most deprived deciles were approximately 6 years younger and half as likely to take folic acid supplements periconceptually as the least deprived mothers. Deprivation was associated with low blood folate, high homocysteine and diets low in protein, fibre and many of the vitamins and minerals. The diets of the more deprived women were also characterised by low intakes of fruit, vegetables and oily fish and higher intakes of processed meat, fried potatoes, crisps and snacks. Deprivation was related to preterm birth (OR 1·14 (95 % CI 1·03, 1·25); P = 0·009) and whether the baby required neonatal treatment (OR 1·07 (95 % CI 1·01, 1·14); P = 0·028). Low birth weight was more common in women consuming diets low in vitamin C (OR 0·79 (95 % CI 0·64, 0·97); P = 0·028), riboflavin (OR 0·77 (95 % CI 0·63, 0·93); P = 0·008), pantothenic acid (OR 0·79 (95 % CI 0·65, 0·97); P = 0·023) and sugars (OR 0·78 (95 % CI 0·64, 0·96); P = 0·017) even after adjustment for deprivation index, smoking, marital status and parity. Deprivation in pregnancy is associated with diets poor in specific nutrients and poor diet appears to contribute to inequalities in pregnancy outcome. Improving the nutrient intake of disadvantaged women of childbearing age may potentially improve pregnancy outcome.

(Received October 17 2008)

(Revised April 17 2009)

(Accepted April 22 2009)

(Online publication August 17 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr P. Haggarty, fax +44 1224 716622, email